College-Bound Kids, Remember… It’s Not Where You Start, It’s Where You Finish 

Attending a four-year university isn't the only path to a bachelor’s degree or a successful and fulfilling career

by Nancy Reynolds

This Post: College-Bound Kids, Remember… It’s Not Where You Start, It’s Where You Finish 

Written By: Marybeth Bock

If you have a college-bound high schooler, chances are you might be in total “sticker shock” at the high cost of most four-year universities. 

Between the cost of tuition, room and board, books, transportation, and other living expenses, the Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid reports that a moderate college budget for an in-state student attending a four-year public college in 2023-2024 averages $28,840. For out-of-state students at public colleges, the average budget rises to $46,730, and for students attending four-year private colleges, the average budget is a whopping $60,420.

One Mom I recently spoke with said, “My husband and I have been saving for years for our son to attend the college of his choosing, but the rising cost of higher education and the debt we’d have to incur is making us think twice. For the first time, we’re considering having him start at a community college and transferring after a year or two.”

And, she’s not alone.

College-Bound Kids, Remember… It’s Not Where You Start, It’s Where You Finish 


Aside from the significant cost savings, there are a host of other reasons why college-bound students are considering starting at a community college.

With more than 9 million students enrolled in community colleges in the U.S., more students are realizing that attending a four-year college or university isn’t the only path to a bachelor’s degree or a successful and fulfilling career.

In fact, many highly successful peopleincluding astronauts, judges, well-known actors, and Ivy League graduates, got their start at a community college. 

Attending community college can make a whole lot of sense for students looking to cut college costs, those with an undecided academic focus, or students who may be dealing with learning challenges. Here are reasons why community college might be the best choice for some college-bound kids. 

8 Reasons to Consider Community College:

1. You’ll Save a Substantial Amount of Money

According to data from the College Board, community colleges cost, on average, about one-third of in-state tuition at four-year public universities. Lower costs mean big savings for families – tens of thousands of collars. By completing general education requirements and prerequisite courses at a community college, and later transferring to a four-year institution, students can significantly reduce the overall cost of their college education and end up transferring and graduating from a reputable, (potentially big-name) four-year college.

Additionally, if a student lives near the community college and can commute, they stand to save substantially more money by not having to pay for housing expenses which can add up at four-year colleges. 

2. Schedules are More Flexible

Community colleges often offer more flexible class schedules, including evening, weekend, and online course options. This flexibility can be a huge benefit for students who work part-time or have other time commitments outside of school.

3. Smaller Class Sizes

Those 400-person lecture halls in big colleges can be intimidating for a lot of students.

Community colleges tend to have smaller class sizes compared to large universities, allowing for more individualized attention and support from instructors. This can be beneficial for students who thrive in a smaller learning environment or who may need additional academic assistance due to learning challenges. 

4. Support During a Huge Transition

Community colleges often provide support services and resources to help students make a successful transition to college-level coursework, including academic advising, tutoring, counseling, and assistance with transfer planning. Services like these are offered to first-year students at four-year colleges and universities as well, but sometimes they are more difficult to access or require more initiative on the part of the student.

5. Freedom to Explore Academic Interests

Students who start at a community college have more freedom to explore different academic interests and career paths before committing to a specific major or focus of study. It also allows students to explore 2-year associate degree options

They can take a variety of courses to discover their strengths, interests, and career goals without the pressure of immediately declaring a major. Most community colleges also offer tech and business certifications that can help a student start working while still studying or in advance of their future career.

6. Helpful Transfer Agreements

Many community colleges have articulation agreements with four-year universities, guaranteeing the transfer of credits and providing a seamless transition for students who plan to transfer. (An articulation agreement is an official guarantee that classes completed at one school will be accepted when a student transfers to another school.)

These agreements can streamline the transfer process and ensure that students’ credits transfer smoothly to their desired four-year institution, saving a lot of time and undue stress. Be mindful that it tends to be easier to transfer credits between schools within the same state.

7. Improved Academic Performance

For students who may not have performed well academically in high school or who need additional time to develop college-level study skills, starting at a community college can provide an opportunity to strengthen academic foundations and improve their course performance before transferring to a four-year university.

8. More Time for Growth and Maturity

Thankfully, we’ve all come to realize that not every teen is ready to move far away and “adult” on their own at the age of 17 or 18. Time spent studying at a community college can be a valuable period of personal growth and maturity for students who may not feel ready for the independence and challenges of a four-year university immediately after high school.

It allows young adults to gain confidence, develop study habits, and build essential life skills in a smaller, more supportive environment.

Overall, attending community college before transferring to a four-year university can be a strategic and cost-effective pathway to higher education for many college-bound students.

It offers flexibility, affordability, enhanced support, and opportunities for academic exploration and success, positioning students for a smoother transition to their desired four-year institution and future career goals.

If your teen’s goal is a degree from a university, it truly does not matter where that journey begins. We as parents should be focused on what path makes the most sense for our teen, not what the paths and opinions of others may be.


Marybeth Bock, MPH, is a Mom to two young adults and one delightful hound dog. She has logged time as a military spouse, childbirth educator, college instructor, and freelance writer. She lives in Arizona and thoroughly enjoys research and writing – as long as iced coffee is involved. Her work can be found on numerous websites and in two books. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.


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